Midwest Producers Gather to Learn About Using Cover Crops

Cover crops can decrease soil compaction, fix nutrients and improve water infiltration.

Published on: Dec 22, 2011

Producers from across the Midwest gathered in Decatur, Illinois recently to hear from some of the top experts in the nation on the use of cover crops.

The Soil and Water Conservation Society hosted the conference "Effective Cover Cropping In The Midwest." Society Vice President Dan Towery says the event was targeted to farmers that are using or contemplating the use of cover crops.

"We thought it would be quite appropriate for the society because we're all about soil and water interaction," Towery said. "So talk about both the science behind it but also the management."

Interest in cover cropping is on the rise, and for good reason. Towery says today's cover crops are a non-mechanical way to decrease soil compaction, tie up expensive nutrients as well as other benefits.

"By having something growing in the fall and possibly in the spring we see a huge difference in the soil," Towery said. "It doesn't happen overnight, it takes a few years, but folks are using cover crops in replace of a deep ripper to take care of soil compaction. They're looking at cover crops to scavenge nitrogen or fix nitrogen thereby reducing their nitrogen input. Improve water infiltration, having more water running through the soil profile instead of running off."

Towery notes there are challenges in cover cropping, most notably the timing of getting the different crops on the field. However, he believes producers are finding the long-term improvements are worth the challenge.

"Guys that were doing no-till say it's all about improving the soil," Towery said. "Well we've found that if we add cover crops we can even do a better job of that. I've heard a lot of 10 to 20 bushel yield increase on soybeans and 20 to 30 bushel increase in corn where they've been using cover crops four years or more. They're no limitations but it can be very profitable."

Producers interested in learning more about cover cropping are encouraged to visit to the Soil and Water Conservation Society's website at www.swcs.org.